Archive for November, 2013

25th 2013
Colorado Educators Again to Decide Whether to Request EMO Political Refunds

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Teachers

For Colorado public educators, it’s that time of year again. Current members of many CEA local affiliates who want or need to drop their membership and stop their dues payments have to wait until next school year. For those who want to keep their membership but would rather decide how to spend their (as much as $63 in) Every Member Option automatic political deduction on their own, the clock is ticking to request one or both refunds.

Every year my Education Policy Center friends reach out to thousands of Colorado educators with the information. General awareness of the EMO political refund has grown, but every year they still encounter union members who hadn’t known about the scheme. Continue Reading »

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22nd 2013
Thankful for the (Mostly) Good News for Louisiana School Choice Families

Posted under Courts & Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

‘Tis the season for expressions of gratitude. So I’m glad to say this week that the U.S. Department of Justice has dropped its hollow and shameful attack against a Louisiana school choice program and the parents who benefit from it. So if you see little Eddie smiling and muttering a few extra Thank-You’s than normal, now you know why.

Back in August Eric Holder’s Justice Department launched a legal assault against the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), claiming that it was undermining desegregation orders. Last week Commentary magazine writer Seth Mandel explained how the Feds’ phony case had completely broken down under the weight of new evidence. Continue Reading »

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21st 2013
Time for “Preschool for All”? Not So Fast, Says New Gold-Standard Research

Posted under Early Childhood & Research & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Tax Credits

A few weeks ago I pointed you to a growing body of research that cast serious doubts on the glowing claims about what universal preschool can accomplish. That was before Amendment 66 went down in flames, including a proposal to boost funding for at-risk early childhood education.

While shell-shocked tax increase supporters continue to mourn the devastating rejection of 66, it’s still difficult to contemplate what might come next. Yet into the fray comes the most powerful batch of troubling results yet — troubling for backers of expanded early childhood education.

A summary of gold-standard research findings on 1,100 intensively studied youngsters in a Tennessee preschool program was reported yesterday by the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst: Continue Reading »

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19th 2013
It’s Not Really as Simple as More Students for Better Teachers… Is It?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

Sometimes it’s the small ideas that deserve big attention. No single one of these ideas can solve all the problems and shortcomings in education, but reformers and transformers might find pleasing results from one such strategic change. That’s what we find in a newly released Fordham Institute study by Michael Hansen, “Right-sizing the Classroom: Making the Most of Great Teachers.”

What’s the result when a school shifts a few students from the weakest teacher’s classroom to the most effective teacher’s classroom? Hansen digs into years of 5th grade and 8th grade data from North Carolina to figure out how well the approach works: Continue Reading »

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15th 2013
Open Enrollment: Friday Appreciation

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature

Before heading off into the weekend playground sunset, I ran across this recent piece from former California Democratic state legislator and passionate education reformer Gloria Romero. She touts the 2010 Open Enrollment Act she guided through the state legislature to empower parents, explaining how it can be used as a tool to highlight failing schools and help set students free: Continue Reading »

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14th 2013
Wonks Want to Know: Will Colorado Figure Out the Teacher Licensure Connection?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & State Legislature & Teachers

Guess I should be thankful that the big education issue being talked up for next year’s legislative session is teacher licensure. (It was supposed to be last year, but kind of got lost in the shuffle with that whole Senate Bill 213 debate.)

As it usually goes with such things, there’s been a group meeting called the LEAD Compact Working Group. Their job is to come up with recommendations for legislators on how Colorado can make the licensure system work better, especially now that we are launching a system that evaluates teachers based on effectiveness. But as Ed News Colorado reports, there’s the rub:

Nearing the end of its work, the group that is studying possible changes to Colorado’s teacher licensing requirements remains undecided on a key issue – whether or how to connect license renewal to teacher evaluation.

Continue Reading »

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13th 2013
Survey of Tax Credit Scholarship Parents Gives Insights into School Choices

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

My eyes gleamed when I saw this new Friedman Foundation report, More Than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools. Why? Not only because it used a survey of 754 parents in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, but also because it asked really helpful questions to understand why parents make the choices they do.

GOAL is a scholarship tax credit program, adopted by Georgia in 2008. Its features aren’t too much different than the ones my Education Policy Center friends recommend in A Scholarship Tax Credit Program for Colorado. You know, the type of program that could help thousands of Colorado Kids Win.

Such a program would encourage more donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations that provide K-12 private tuition assistance to students from low- and middle-income families. One idea you see in some choice programs is that private schools should be required to share certain information with parents. But the Friedman report by Benjamin Scafidi and Jim Kelly brings out an important survey finding: Continue Reading »

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12th 2013
Column Comes Oh-So-Close to Intriguing Case for Education Transformation

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Teachers

Yes, these are crazy days. But a short blog post is better than none at all. And I felt compelled to reply when I read this new Denver Post column by Alicia Caldwell. Not because she is entirely wrong, but because she errs by coming so close to, but missing, a critical breakthrough:

But the truth is — listen up, my free-market friends — enticing top-notch teachers means competing and paying for them. The average teacher salary in Colorado in 2012 was just under $50,000. That’s not much.

Paying teachers more isn’t a popular idea. But getting rid of the mediocre — a non-negotiatiable [sic] first step — and hiring smart people who are star teachers should be.

As usual, read the whole thing. She writes earlier in the piece that, due to challenging student demographics, we should celebrate Colorado’s small gains on national tests because of being so “poorly” funded. (Close to $10,000 per student.) Continue Reading »

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7th 2013
New NAEP Math and Reading Scores Leave Me Longing for More Reform

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

The elections are over. I’m out from underneath the rock. It’s nice to see the sunshine again, to see that Amendment 66 was rejected (let’s think Kids Are First instead), and the reform message carried many major school board races.

Time to shift gears, though, with the release of 2013 results from NAEP, the nation’s gold-standard test. The overall picture, as reported by Education Week‘s Catherine Gewertz, is not too encouraging: Continue Reading »

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4th 2013
Many Rural Districts Like Four -Day School Week, No Reason for Amendment 66

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

Out on the campaign trail advocating for Amendment 66 (the election is over tomorrow… YAY!), state senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver) has used a variety of points to make the case for the billion-dollar statewide tax increase. One that showed up in a recent email report would be one that many Denver-area residents might gloss over. He touts having driven 28,000 miles for 600 meetings with 7,000 people, then writes:

I am grateful that my kids can still go to school five days a week in a state where 80 school districts can only keep the doors open 4 days a week.

The email message is not the only place the theme has been delivered. Among other places, Johnston also mentioned the four-day week as a plug for Amendment 66 on a recent Colorado Public Radio debate with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow.

The statement contains a grain of truth. As the Denver Post reported last year, about 80 of the state’s 179 school districts now operate on a four-day week. But why? Because these overwhelmingly rural districts all would like to have five days of school, but can’t afford it? Not so fast. For a significant number of them, it’s not a matter that they can’t keep the doors open on Friday (or maybe Monday), but that they won’t do so. Continue Reading »

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